The Elk Mountain hike in Chilliwack is an epic, moderate hike that gives you sensational views over the Fraser Valley and over to Mount Baker and the surrounding mountains. This is a beautiful part of British Columbia and while there are many great hikes in the area, like Lindeman Lake, this is definitely one of the best Chilliwack hikes.
One of the great things about this hike is that it can be enjoyed year-round, as it is a popular snowshoe trail in the winter. Although we must admit, standing at the top of the Elk Mountain Trail at sunset on a warm summer evening is the ultimate experience here. As the sun goes down it basks the Fraser Valley in golden light and lights up Mount Baker for an incredible sunset that you won’t forget.
Whether you are planning a summer or winter hike around Vancouver then make sure that Elk Mountain, British Columbia is high up on your list. While it is a decent workout, you’ll be blown away by views from the top and it will leave you wanting to come back again and again.
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Elk Mountain Trail Overview
How to Get to Elk Mountain
You may be wondering, where is Elk Mountain? It is located in Chilliwack, southeast of the city centre. The directions to Elk Mountain are quite easy to follow and only the last couple of kilometres are along a gravel road. The rest of the journey is along well-paved roads and it should take you 1.5 hours to drive here from downtown Vancouver.
Drive east along Highway 1 out of Vancouver before turning off at exit 123, Prest Road. Drive south along Prest Road for around 4 kilometres before turning left onto Bailey Road. After a short drive along this road, it splits in two very quickly and you should keep right at the split to follow Elk View Road.
Elk View Road will take you all the way to the trailhead for this hike. The first 8 kilometres of this road will be paved while the last 2 kilometres will be along a gravel road.
The Elk Mountain hike parking lot is reasonably sized and is located right next to the trailhead, which is marked with an information board and a sign. It can get very busy here on the weekends so prepare to come here early if you want to beat the crowds. Although the parking lot does get full, you can park along the side of the road so you shouldn’t have an issue actually finding somewhere to park your car.
Elk Mountain Hike
While this hike can also be completed in the winter on snowshoes, the end of May and the start of June are great times to complete this hike.
This is because the snow has melted from the trail (although you will still see some snowy spots along the way) but the surrounding mountains are still covered in a healthy dusting of snow, making it even more spectacular.
Once you have parked your car and have made sure you have all of your day hike essentials, you can make your way to the trailhead which is right next to the information board near the far end of the parking lot. There is an Elk Mountain trail map of the hike and some general information on the board which you can check out before you begin your ascent.
There is an outhouse toilet just a few metres along the trail in case you need to use the bathroom before beginning your hike. This hike will take roughly 3.5 – 4 hours, although there is another toilet just before the summit which you can use as well.
The trail begins by winding up through the forest along a wide and well maintained trail. You will climb moderately along this section of the trail for around 30-minutes before you come to a road. There were a couple of 4 wheel drive vehicles parked along this road and there is a 4 wheel drive road that you can follow to reach this break in the trail but we recommend parking in the main parking lot further down.
Cross the road and you will find the next section of the trail that will take you back into the forest. The trail climbs moderately through the trees for about another 20 minutes before you hit a steeper section. After a few minutes of steep climbing, you reach a small plateau where you can get a small glimpse at the view over the Fraser Valley. Through some gaps in the trees, you will see the lush green farmland on the valley floor, although it is only a partial view.
Once you pass this viewpoint it is quite a steep and brutal climb to the summit. From here you will get some more brief views of the surrounding mountains through small gaps in the trees as you make your way up. There is one section of extremely steep switchbacks, mixed with a few stairs, that is short but punishing. Once you reach the top of this set of switchbacks you get your first breathtaking view of Mount Baker in the distance.
If this was the only view you got from this hike it would still be worth it, but the scenery just gets better and better from here as you climb higher and get more unobstructed views. Hike a few minutes further along the trail and you reach the first epic viewpoint. This part of the hike is a small ridgeline that opens up giving amazing unobstructed views.
From this ridgeline, you get amazing 270-degree views of the surrounding snow-capped mountain peaks, Cultus Lake as well as down into the Fraser Valley. With the view fully unobstructed, the last few minutes of the hike are sensational. You walk along the exposed ridge and your head will be on a swivel trying to take in all of the incredible scenery that surrounds you.
The Summit of Elk Mountain, Chilliwack
After just a few more minutes of hiking, you will reach the main viewpoint, which is a grassy hill that gives you similar, but slightly better views than the last viewpoint that is slightly lower. There is also an outhouse toilet at this viewing area, which is something that is very rare to find at the top of a mountain, especially as there is no camping permitted on this hike.
Before you stop for a well-deserved snack break, we highly recommend making your way along the ridge for a few more minutes as the summit of Elk Mountain is actually just past this viewpoint. You’ll only need to walk a couple of minutes further before climbing the last few metres to the summit of Elk Mountain. Part of the view is blocked off by trees here but you still get to stare straight across the border to Mount Baker in the USA.
Once you have reached the summit then you can make your way back to the main viewpoint to relax and enjoy the views. We could have sat here for hours admiring the beautiful scenery but the sunset prompted us to get moving again.
If you want a longer and slightly more challenging hike, then you can follow the ridgeline for another few kilometres to complete the Thurston Mountain hike, although the views aren’t quite as beautiful as from Elk Mountain.
This is an out and back trail so you will follow the same route back to the parking lot. What is great about this is that you did all of the hard work on the way up so it is a quick and easy downhill hike back to your car. The top part may require you to go a little bit slower as it is so steep, but once you make it past the steeper sections you can move pretty quickly back along the trail.
In total this hike took us just over 3 hours, but we recommend planning 3.5 – 4 hours for this trip, especially if you want to spend extra time at the top.
Elk Mountain Camping
Unfortunately, there is no official Elk Mountain campground and there is no camping permitted anywhere along the trail, including up at the viewpoint. However, there are lots of places that you can camp to be very close to the trail. Camping is permitted along Elk View Road, Bench Road and even Chilliwack Lake Road and you will see lots of people set up to camp as you drive along these roads.
There are also several BC Recreation sites located along Chilliwack Lake Road and towards the end of Bench Road, towards Chilliwack Lake. These can be reserved in advance but most sites are left for first come first served. We have been out here on several busy weekends, arriving later on a Friday evening, and we have always managed to get a site at one of the campgrounds.
All of the campgrounds are cash only and almost all sites have a picnic bench and a fire pit, with some of the manned campgrounds selling firewood as well. The final option for camping is to stay at the Chilliwack Lake Provincial Campground which can be booked through Discover Camping.
While you can easily complete this hike as a day trip from Vancouver, we recommend making a whole weekend of a trip out to Chilliwack by staying in one of the many campgrounds. Chilliwack Lake is an awesome place to spend the day relaxing in the sun, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding. Plus you can add in a hike to Lindeman Lake, which is one of the most popular hikes in the area.
The Elk Mountain hike exceeded our expectations and we are confident you’ll be blown away by the spectacular views you get from the top. While it is a relatively challenging trail, the reward at the end is totally worth the effort.
What’s your favourite hike in Chilliwack? Let us know in the comments.
Looking for more hikes around Vancouver? Check out some other awesome trails here:
- HUNTER TRAIL MISSION, BC
- LOWER FALLS TRAIL IN GOLDEN EARS
- BOWEN LOOKOUT TRAIL | Cypress Mountain
- ST MARKS SUMMIT | Cypress Mountain
- NORVAN FALLS HIKE IN NORTH VANCOUVER